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Tanzanite Gemstones - What a color!


Tanzanite owes its popularity to one Henry Platt, who was the former president of Tiffany & Co., a prominent jewelry chain store. In 1967, he discovered and named this gemstone, and aptly named is after the country of its origin. There is a 5-mile strip of land in Arusha, Tanzania, and this is the only place in the world, where there are commercially viable deposits of this wonderful gemstone. Platt, marketed the stone fiercely, naming it as the most important gemstone discovery in over 2000 years. When compared to other famous gemstones, Tanzanite is relatively young and therefore has a short history; this fact does not mean that it is any less popular than the other popular gemstones. The fact that this wonderful gemstone thousands of times rarer than diamond makes it a collector’s item, and people pay premium prices for it.

Tanzanite is a rare gem, found in only one geographic region in the world; it has a lovely blue color, tinged with purple, and this makes it not only rare, but also stunningly beautiful. This makes it the perfect stone for jewelry. The fact that Tiffany was involved in the initial marketing campaign helped in making this stone very precious. However, there are certain aspects of Tanzanite that also make it a very fragile and difficult stone to turn into jewelry:

  • The stone has a lovely blue color but if it is faceted in the wrong direction, the blue will be replaced by a dull gray color. The stone is Pleochroic, so it shows different colors when viewed from different angles, and the cutter has to work it so the blue color is dominant.
  • This is a gemstone that has a flawless cleavage in one direction; this means that absolute care must be taken when cutting it, to avid chipping of the stone. It is like working with layered granite; a wrong cut, and it chips off in huge pieces.
  • Tanzanite is a very soft gemstone, so care must be taken when working it to avoid hitting it against hard surfaces. Similarly, even after being successfully turned into a piece of artful jewelry, the owner must know how to wear it right, and avoid hitting it against the same hard surfaces. This means placing the stone in padded storage cases, and avoid tossing them on a table, even after a hard night of partying. This soft nature is so pronounced that Tanzanite should never be worn when in the presence of ultrasound waves.
Although this stone is a wonderful piece to look at, with the radiant blue color, and shimmering people halo, it is a gemstone that needs extremely careful handling and this lowers its value when durability is considered.

A little History about Tanzanite

As mentioned earlier, this lovely blue gemstone is only found in one area of the world, and this is in Tanzania, and hence the name. One can say that there are a number of gemstones that are produced in Africa, but this one is unique due to its limitation within a small area of the continent. Now, there is a reason why this is so, and this can be found in the manner in which the gemstone was formed, many centuries ago. This is a gemstone that has been named as the “20th Century gemstone”, since it was discovered in 1967.

Tanzanite was discovered in Arusha, Tanzania, in an area called the Merelani Hills. The hills are towards the northern part of Tanzania, not far from the Kenyan border. A long time ago, quartzite, metamorphic schist and gneisses, came together to form inselbergs on the plains below Mount Kilimanjaro, and thee has a characteristic flat-top nature; similar to plateaus. Due to the high elevations of these structures, they came together to form the magnificent deposits, within a small area, where Tanzanite is found. Nobody ever thought of looking for gemstone deposits in this area, until some Maasai nomads passed by, saw the glimmering stones, and decided to take them with them, believing that the shiny stones would fetch them some money; well, they did get some money, and also opened up the area to commercial mining.

The Commercial Mining and Trading of Tanzanite Gemstones

Today, there are several small mines in the Merelani hills, which carry out the commercial exploitation of Tanzanite. Due to the fragile nature of the stone, they are mainly extracted as small stones, but once in a while, a large stone is mined. When a large stone is found, the miners and owners, are overjoyed due to the prospect of premium financial compensation from jeweler and Tanzanite enthusiasts all over the world.

Over the years, the small scale mines of Tanzanite have built reputable trade chains with traders from all over the world. The businesses may be small, but the stability of the relationships has lasted several decades. Some of the trade destinations of Tanzanite are in India, USA, Israel and Germany. The merchants, about 90%, are affiliated with the International Colored Gemstone Association, ICA, which maintains very strict trade standards, which all members must adhere to; this has facilitated the establishment of reputable trade channels, ensuring that Tanzanite is sold to time-honored cutters, and then sent to the trustworthy jewelers of the world, such as Tiffany’s which helped market it after its discovery. This has ensured that the bulk of Tanzanite goes through channels which completely avoid the gemstone black market merchants.

Tanzanite presented to the world

When the first deposits of Tanzanite were discovered and analyzed, the gemstone was classified as a Ziosite. Its chemical composition is Calcium Aluminum Silicate, which is a rather soft stone. It only has a gemstone hardness value of 6.5 to 7 n the Mohs scale. This is the main reason why the stone must be handled with a lot of care during mining, cutting and wearing. Unlike other gemstones, it should never be put in an ultrasonic cleaning bath, or exposed to acids.

Tiffany was the first jeweler to offer Tanzanite to gemstone enthusiasts. This was done in New York, about 2 years after the stone was first discovered. The reaction to the stone, was fantastic, with people claiming that it is the bluest stone that they have ever seen. However, the fact that it was classified as a ziosite brought about a problem in the naming of the stone. The name sounded a lot like suicide, and this was not preferred; from a marketing standpoint. The company’s president decided that the stone should be named after the only place where it is found in the world, and the name Tanzanite was coined. The name soon became a common name in gemstone circles. In a broad advertising campaign, Tiffany presented the stone to the world, in New York, and the rest is history; this stone became the gentle blue child, which wowed even the most critical of gemstone owners.

The Magical Spell of Tanzanite Gemstones

The magical spell that is cast by Tanzanite gemstone on all who set their eyes on it lies in the deep blue color that it exudes. The color has shades that run from Aquamarine Blue to a light Violet-Blue. Among Tanzanite enthusiasts, the deep blue color which has a small halo of purple, is the most coveted, and can fetch a handsome price since it is the most durable and can be found in sizes above 10 carats. The stone has a polychromaticity that is unlike any other and the color changes from blue to purple and sometimes brownish yellow, depending on the angle at which you are looking at the stone from.

The brownish yellow color is not a desired effect, and it can be removed by heating the raw stone to about 500°; this is traditionally the first step that a cutter has to do before he can cut the stone into the desired design. This is a delicate process, since the brownish color disappears at a certain time, and the stone must immediately be removed from the oven, so as not to compromise its delicate structure any more. Although burning the stones is customary, the most precious stones are those that do not have any inclusions; when it comes to delicate stones, any inclusion may be a weak spot and this compromises the value of the stone. With a stone that has a unidirectional cleavage, a cutter can have nightmares just trying to figure out how to cut it. This is a gemstone that is cut into several custom designer cuts, as well as the standard gemstone cuts.

For a person who wants to be seen as an exclusive persona, Tanzanite is the perfect choice of gemstone. The blue color, and the purple tinge are colors that are usually associated with royalty, and the cream of society. This is a color that is regarded as extravagant, and therefore shows the person as one who does not spare any cost to get what he wants. This is an exclusive and rare stone, and therefore sets the wearer as one who exudes individuality and confidence. This is a stone that is favored by confident young, ambitious women, and also the older lady, who has a streaky character running under the skin.

The price of tanzanite is determined by the trading parties, since the color and size will determine the levels at which the bargaining will reach. For large, high quality Tanzanite, the trader can ask for any price that comes to mind, and the buyer will part with it. The color of the stone is the one that makes it so irresistible, and this drives the prices sky-high. The esteem of this gemstone comes from the fact that it is rare; this makes it great to own one, since it is a stone that is owned by very few people all over the world.

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